Paul Cassirer, Berlin (on consignment from the above from 1914)
Hans Wendland, Berlin (acquired from the above on 19th January 1918)
Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne, Berlin & Munich (acquired from the above on 4th September 1924)
Erich Goeritz, Berlin & London (acquired from the above on 1st April 1926. Deposited in the Toronto Art Gallery, Toronto, from 1946 until 1950)
Thomas Goeritz, London (by descent from the above circa 1957)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Bremen, Kunsthalle, Internationale Ausstellung, 1914, no. 250, illustrated in the catalogue
Dresden, Galerie Ernst Arnold, Französische Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts, 1914, no. 77
London, Tate Gallery, Claude Monet, 1957, no. 110, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., A Great Period of French Painting, 1963, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Wildenstein, The French Impressionists and some of their Contemporaries, 1963, no. 45, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Wildenstein, Venice Rediscovered, 1972, no. 25, illustrated in the catalogue
Tokyo, Musée National d’Art Occidental & Kyoto, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Monet, 1982-83, no. 52, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Le Palais des Doges, Venice)
London, National Gallery, Monet and Architecture, 2018, no. 189, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Wilken von Alten, ‘Die Internationale Ausstellung in der Bremer Kunsthalle’, in Kunst und Künstler, 1914, p. 386
Emil Waldmann, ‘Notizen zur Franz. Ausstellung in Dresden’, in Kunst und Künstler, April 1914, pp. 389-392
Lionello Venturi, Les Archives de l’Impressionnisme, Paris & New York, 1939, vol. I, mentioned pp. 434-437
René Jullian, ‘Les Impressionnistes français et l’Italie’, in Publications de l’Institut français de Florence, Florence & Paris, 1968, N.II-11, p. 19
Grace Seiberling, Monet’s Series, New York & London, 1981, no. 13, pp. 210 & 380
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet. Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1985, vol. IV, no. 1744, illustrated p. 235; mentioned in letters nos. 2028, 2057-2059, pp. 386 & 387
Philippe Piguet, Monet et Venise, Paris, 1986, no. 9, illustrated p. 75
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. IV, no. 1744, illustrated p. 813
Paul Signac in a letter to Claude Monet
‘Monet’s paintings of Venice all set water between him and the city’s structures that he viewed from different distances. This maximised the Adriatic light as it both bounced back off the surface and reflected within it the buildings beyond.’
Richard Thomson in Monet & Architecture (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2018, p. 192
Monet’s spectacular view of the Doge’s Palace on the Grand Canal belongs to the extraordinary series he created in Venice in the autumn of 1908. Painted from a moored boat, the scene depicts a close view of Palazzo Ducale, with its Byzantine fenestrations adorning the façade. The Ponte della Paglia and the prison building are visible on the right, while the column on the left of the palace marks the entrance to Saint Mark’s square. Monet painted two other views from the same vantage point – one of which is now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum in New York (fig. 1) – exploring the building and its reflection in the water in different light conditions.
The artist and his wife Alice stayed in Venice from October to December 1908, a trip that resulted in thirty-seven canvases on a variety of Venetian subjects. On 19th December 1908, a few days after Monet’s return to Paris, Bernheim-Jeune acquired twenty-eight of them, although the artist kept the pictures in his studio until 1912 to give them finishing touches. After the death of Alice in 1911, Monet finally agreed on a date for the exhibition at Bernheim-Jeune, possibly as a memento of their holiday together. Writing about the present work, Daniel Wildenstein pointed out: ‘After the 1912 exhibition, Monet wanted to “take advantage” of the fact that he had the two previous canvases “before his eyes” in order “to finish one of them”. The reference is apparently to this one’ (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, p. 814).
More recently, Le Palais Ducal was included in the recent highly acclaimed exhibition Monet & Architecture at the National Gallery in London; discussing the present work and its companion-painting now in the Brooklyn Museum (fig. 1), Richard Thomson wrote in the exhibition catalogue: ‘Light plays on the façade, vividly reflecting the long block of the building in the sea. Monet used contrasts of value economically to characterise the famous architecture, darker patches marking the arcades, galleries and windows along the forbidding frontage, light picking out the column at the left against shadow […]. Paradoxically, given the enclosed, grimly private mien of the Doge’s Palace, Monet painted these canvases in sumptuous chromatics: angelica greens, banana yellows and turquoise blues’ (R. Thomson in Monet & Architecture (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 200).
Monet and Alice travelled to Venice for the first time in the autumn of 1908 at the invitation of Mary Young Hunter, a wealthy American who had been introduced to the Monets by John Singer Sargent. They arrived on 1st October and spent two weeks as her guests at the Palazzo Barbaro, which belonged to a relation of Sargent – Mrs Daniel Sargent Curtis – before moving to the Grand Hotel Britannia on the Grand Canal where they stayed until their departure on 7th December. From the balcony of the Palazzo Barbaro, situated on the north side of the Grand Canal, they could see three of the great palaces Monet was to paint during his time in Venice: Palazzo da Mula, Palazzo Dario and the Palazzo Contarini. He then relocated to the Grand Hotel Britannia, which provided him with views of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Palazzo Ducale. Monet painted the celebrated Doge's Palace from three different viewpoints: a close view seen from the water, as in the present work; a view across the canal from the islet of San Giorgio Maggiore (fig. 2) and one canvas showing the palace from the other side, looking west, possibly seen from a floating pontoon.
Initially reluctant to leave his house and garden at Giverny, Monet must have sensed that the architectural splendours of Venice in their watery environment would present new and formidable challenges. His first days in Venice seemed only to confirm his initial fears but after several days of his customary discouragement, he commenced work on 7th October. In his study of Monet's work and the Mediterranean, Joachim Pissarro has given a detailed account of Monet's working schedule while he was in Venice: ‘After so much procrastination, Monet soon adopted a rigorous schedule in Venice. Alice’s description of his work day establishes that from the very inception of his Venetian campaign, Monet organized his time and conceived of the seriality of his work very differently from his previous projects. In Venice, Monet divided his daily schedule into periods of approximately two hours, undertaken at the same time every day and on the same given motif. Unlike his usual methods of charting the changes of time and light as the course of the day would progress, here Monet was interested in painting his different motifs under exactly the same conditions. One could say that he had a fixed appointment with his motifs at the same time each day. The implication of this decision is very simple; for Monet in Venice, time was not to be one of the factors of variations for his motifs. Rather, it was the “air”, or what he called “the envelope” – the surrounding atmospheric conditions, the famous Venetian haze – that became the principal factor of variation with these motifs’ (J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean, New York, 1977, p. 50).
Discussing the Venetian paintings of 1908 Gustave Geffroy attempted to define the approach Monet took to his depictions of the city, in particular making a study of the artist’s repeated portrayal of certain motifs: ‘It is no longer the minutely detailed approach to Venice that the old masters saw in its new and robust beauty, nor the decadent picturesque Venice of the 18th century painters; it is a Venice glimpsed simultaneously from the freshest and most knowledgeable perspective, one which adorns the ancient stones with the eternal and changing finery of the hours of the day’. Monet’s Venetian canvases transported Geffroy: ‘in front of this Venice in which the ten century old setting takes on a melancholic and mysterious aspect under the luminous veils which envelop it. The lapping water ebbs and flows, passing back and forth around the palazzo, as if to dissolve these vestiges of history… The magnificence of nature only reigns supreme in those parts of the landscape from which the bustling city of pleasure can be seen from far enough away that one can believe in the fantasy of the lifeless city lying in the sun’ (G. Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1924, pp. 318 & 320).
Matisse is recorded to have noted: ‘it seemed to me that Turner must have been the link between the academic tradition and impressionism’ (quoted in Turner, Whistler, Monet (exhibition catalogue), Tate Britain, London, 2005, p. 203) and divined a special connection between Turner’s works and Monet’s. Writing in the catalogue for the Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibition, Katherin Lochnan pinpoints the Venice pictures as the culmination of Monet’s discourse with those two painters: ‘These beautiful and poetic works are portals through which the viewer can enter a world of memories, reveries and dreams. Fearing that they might constitute the final chapter in his artistic evolution, Monet sounded in them the last notes of his artistic dialogue with Turner and Whistler that had been central to his artistic development’ (K. Lochnan in ibid., p. 35).
In Venice Monet continued to observe, as he had in the views of the river Thames he completed in 1904, how light reflected off a wide stretch of water dissolves and liquefies the solid, uneven surfaces of stone walls. In Venice, however, the closeness of the buildings to the water's edge led him to explore more abstract compositions, accentuating the interplay between the rhythms of the ornate façade, with its arched openings and horizontal divisions, and the rhythmic expanse of water. The glorious late canvases that Turner produced in the early 1840s, such as Venice, The Bridge of Sighs (fig. 4), present a Venice which is transfigured by light. Similarly in the present work Monet has suffused the very bricks and mortar with yellow, pink and purple tones. In his introduction to the Bernheim-Jeune exhibition, Octave Mirbeau observed that the atmosphere in Monet's views of Venetian palaces was ‘mixed with colour as though it had passed through a stained-glass window’ (O. Mirbeau, quoted in ibid., p. 206).
Monet’s thirty-seven canvases of Venetian subjects depicted views of the Grand Canal, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Rio della Salute, the Palazzos Daria, Mula, Contarini and the Doge’s Palace. The now legendary exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Claude Monet Venise, opened on 28th May 1912 and was greeted with considerable critical acclaim, not least by Paul Signac who viewed the Venetian canvases as one of Monet’s greatest achievements. Writing to Monet he states: ‘When I looked at your Venice paintings with their admirable interpretation of the motifs I know so well, I experienced a deep emotion, as strong as the one I felt in 1879 when confronted by your train stations, your streets hung with flags, your trees in bloom, a moment that was decisive for my future career. And these Venetian pictures are stronger still, where everything supports the expression of your vision, where no detail undermines the emotional impact, where you have attained the selflessness advocated by Delacroix. I admire them as the highest manifestations of your art’ (P. Signac quoted in Turner, Whistler, Monet (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 207).
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